Boss Saito’s Suki Suki Beam

Filed in Cult Of Pop 2.0

I love Melon Kinenbi, and I love Boss Saito Hitomi. She’s supposed to be the captain of sexiness for the group, by which she means she’s allowed to jiggle her boobs and look all hot & bothered. But in this clip from the recently-released Hello Project On Stage DVD – thanks to the MM-BBS for bringing it to my attention (I downloaded the concert but hadn’t gotten around to watching it yet) – she goes from captain of sexiness to captain of inappropriate horniness.

Because – barring a dick-puppet theater version acted out by Gackt and SMAP’s Shingo – this is perhaps the strangest performance of “Shiawase Beam! Suki Suki Beam!” I could have ever imagined…

That’s right, the Happy 7 shuffle song. It starts off innocently enough, I guess… There are three backup dancers in retro party dresses… We hear the simple “shave and a haircut” melody and the “chu chu chu chu chu”…

And from there, Boss Saito starts slinking up the stage, looking quite regal and shapely.

A shot of her leg peeking through the long slit up her dress…

Her voice has a nice richness to it, but it’s way overblown in the delivery. It’s like she’s trying to hold back hiccups or preparing to do one of those fake matronly laughs that Mako-chan and Yossi used to do in Hello! Morning skits.

She also ends each line with weirdly-inflected ejaculations like “ooh” and “yeah” and “sek-shi” and “jelly boy”.

The intent is pretty clear, she’s trying to do a sexed-up Betty Boop-esque version of the song, keeping it cute but also making it very flirty and a bit of a cock tease. Madonna was able to boop-boop-be-doop through “Santa Baby”, so why not this?

And there is a vestige of classiness involved, with the wardrobe…

… and, um, Saito striking perpendicular angles with her knees so that she can show off more thigh…

To Saito’s credit, she is quite ravishingly beautiful here. I mean, I’d love to have heard her do a torch song of some sort instead, a slow ballad that makes her sexiness look inviting instead of grotesquely cartoonish.

But some clever fuck probably thought this was a great idea – an insanely clever idea. “Why not take a cute song and make it all horny and shit?” Mm-hm…

And yup, there was a blatant boob shot thrown into the mix, as well. And Hitomi jiggles it just enough to make it worth the cameraman’s while.

For what it’s worth, Hitomi really gets into the performance. She vamps it up, flirts with her backup singers, and her voice sustains that strange wavering quality meant to signal sexual arousal or the Toontown version thereof.

It does seem like everyone on stage was having some burlesque fun with it – the backup singers clearly think it’s a hoot and play up to the diva that Saito wants to become.

So if it’s all in good, smutty fun, why am I laughing at Hitomi and not with her? And why, once I wipe away the tears of hysterical giggling, am I more troubled by this performance than impressed with its original take on an H!P classic?

Well, there’s a couple reasons. First and foremost, Hitomi has a bad habit of playing up her sexuality in the trashiest way possible. She seems to think that a kind of raw-boned, over-the-top horniness is the best way to make herself stand out as an idol. It doesn’t have the clever pomo wink of Koda Kumi or the smolder of a Sowelu or the vulnerability of Amuro Namie or even the wacky artistic license of Otsuka Ai. Often in Hitomi’s case, it’s just showy and a tad desperate.

Here she has a chance to be classy and sexy, and instead she takes what amounts to a happy children’s song and turns it into a raunchy slice of over-emoted silliness. It isn’t that she made the song merely vulgar, she made it vulgar in a way that isn’t really erotic. There is irony in Betty Boop’s mix of sexy and cute – she may be the original ero-kawaii, after all – but Hitomi’s desire for attention and validation as the captain of sexy has always seemed a bit too earnest, a bit too desperate. And here, that desperation is peeking out through her skirts as much as her well-shaped thighs.

I may be very mistaken, but I think that’s Country Musume’s Asami… which would be funny, since she and Hitomi were both in Happy 7.

One can’t help but think part of the motivation for this song choice is revenge: Hitomi prided herself on being so sexy, so when the 2002 shuffles came along and she wasn’t placed in Sexy 8 (who also had the best shuffle song of the year), she must have been disappointed. That doesn’t mean she has to take it out on the audience, though.

Now here’s a great shot. Why didn’t they have this in the original shuffle PV? Actually, it doesn’t seem sexy as much as a misguided Viva Las Vegas Elvis performance… The pose is so Graceland, so rocking out to “Also Sprach Zarathustra”, it would’ve been cool to have seen Hitomi go that route.

In this two-minute performance, Hitomi does enough leg and lower-body callisthenics to last her a week…

Apparently, the squats and crotch-thrusts from “Nikutai wa Shoujiki na Eros” is appropriate for any song, in any outfit. Remind me not to invite Hitomi to my child’s first birthday party…

Another thing that’s wrong is that the song choice simply doesn’t warrant such a performance. It can warrant the cute outfits on the backup singers and even the beautiful gown Saito is wearing, but the performance itself isn’t in keeping with the song, nor does it make a clever enough twist for the song to work as a nudge-and-wink.

Do we really need to consider the “suki suki beam” as being… what? A sexy beam, of some kind? Dare I go any further down this line of thinking?

And actually, the original Happy 7 PV had just the right touch of sexiness – a clean, Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon kind of beach sexiness. Mako-chan was especially tasty-looking in that video, and the cute dance in the skimpy beach-wear was about as far as the song needed to go. The song remained cute while the girls had just a touch of desire in their look – and that was more than enough.

I think the worst part for me is that it does seem like a blown opportunity for Hitomi. She looks fabulous, she’s got willing backup singers, she could have done something astounding and mature here. She’s in excellent vocal form, when you set aside all the ludicrous affectations she takes on. I mean, really? “Jelly boy”? Is that what you lather on the suki suki beam before it becomes a real shiawase beam?

That said, I got a really good laugh out of it. It was just so damn ridiculous that I couldn’t stop laughing for a while… If that was what the people behind the musical intended, fine. But was that what Hitomi intended? Did she really want to poke fun at herself in such a manner?

Maybe. Maybe I’m not giving her enough credit, maybe there’s a level of successful irony – as opposed to badly-botched cleverness – that I’m missing here. From just looking at the screencaps, it actually looks very appealing, doesn’t it?

Though again, with this pose visions of The King replace any notions of sexiness. Really, she’s going to segue into “Hunk of Burning Love” and “Suspicious Minds” from here, right? Actually, that would’ve been a whole lot sexier, an Elvis medley in that get-up. Perhaps a bit too Celine, but I liked parts of Death on the Installment Plan

I still love Hitomi (actually feeling a bit more protective of her now, even), and still love Melon Kinenbi, and still love “Shiawase Beam” the song. I’ll probably watch this clip a few more times before the novelty wears off, not liking myself much for the schadenfreude of seeing a great idol make a very, very bad decision. It’s an alluring train wreck at best, a cautionary tale at worst.

That said, I can’t wait to watch the rest of this DVD. Maybe Masae does a bump-and-grind version of “Genki Jirushi Oomori” or Megumi strips in a cover of “Piriri to Ikou”… After this clip, one can only wonder what else lies in store for the hapless viewer.


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3 Responses to “Boss Saito’s Suki Suki Beam”
  1. Trish says:

    They’ve got a Saito-only version (from the same concert) uploaded on Youtube here. Doesn’t look as sexed-up as the one you’re talking about here though. Still lots of cleavage-shots though.

  2. acetonic says:

    Saito is pretty homely for a H!P idol so she has to go the Koda “Slutty” Kumi route to get people to notice her. I will admit that she is the fourth sexiest girl in Melon Kinenbi however.

  3. dcpoor says:

    suki suki beam is rolling in it’s grave.